Reviewing the potential of bioenergy in the UK

The UK’s Renewable Energy Association has published the first instalment of its three-part Bioenergy Strategy, which will review the potential of bioenergy in the UK and the policies needed to deliver its potential by 2032.

The first part examines the state of play in the sector, noting that bioenergy now meets 7.4% of the UK’s energy requirements, including 11% of electricity demand, 4% of the energy required to produce heat and 2% of the transportation sector’s needs. Its benefit to the environment has been a 4% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, while the benefit to the economy is valued at £6.5 billion and the provision of 46,000 jobs.

According to the Department of Business, Energy Innovation and Science’s ‘Digest of UK Energy Statistics’ (DUKES) 2018, the contribution of bioenergy and wastes to UK energy supply has grown by a factor of more than 2.5 in the last ten years, from 250 to 623 Petajoules/year.

The importance of the sector is destined to grow even further. The UK’s Committee on Climate Change has concluded that bioenergy could provide up to 15% of UK energy demand in a low carbon economy by 2050, highlighting the important role bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) could play in decarbonising sectors such as aviation.

However, the REA points to the pipeline for future bioenergy projects being constrained by current government policy which has reduced Feed in Tariffs and adversely changed the requirements for biomass projects under the Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme. The REA believes that no bioenergy projects are likely to be brought forward under the third round of the CfD which launches in May 2019.

The next stage of the REA’s Bioenergy Strategy will involve the development of a vision of the role that bioenergy could play in the future UK energy economy. This will look at the potential role of sustainable bioenergy in the long term (to 2050 and beyond). Importantly, the project will also focus on what contribution bioenergy can make to UK energy economy in the short term and specifically to the end of the fifth carbon accounting period in 2032.  This approach recognises the inevitable uncertainties in the long term, the benefits of making early reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and the need to maintain momentum so that technology solutions, expertise, supply chains and infrastructure needed later on can be preserved and progressively developed. It will estimate the environmental and economic benefits that realising such a vision could provide, along with the costs. The third phase of the project will build on this vision and look at what government, industry and other players will need to do to enable it to be realised.

UK bioenergy projects april 2019 UK Bioenergy Projects. Source: AcuComm WasteView Projects database, April 2019.

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